Warning! SPOILERS ahead for Yesterday.
Yesterday imagines a world where only one man remembers The Beatles, passing off their famous songs as his own in order to achieve superstardom. Directed by Danny Boyle from a script by Richard Curtis, Yesterday stars Himesh Patel as the down on his luck singer/songwriter, Jack Malick, who after crashing into a bus during a worldwide blackout, wakes up to discover that no one but him recalls the music of the most famous band of all time.
Securing the rights to use The Beatles' music in Yesterday was no easy task, however, as licensing the band's songs is difficult and often very costly. As a courtesy, Curtis sent his script to Sony/ATV along with their request to license The Beatles' songs, and the publisher liked the concept so much, they agreed to a most unusual deal: Yesterday could, for a fee, include any 15 songs from The Beatles' catalog (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney). As Boyle explained in an interview with Rolling Stone, "There was a stipulation about how many times each one was used, but they built the deal with the freedom that we could change songs if we wanted."
For Yesterday, Boyle and Curtis settled on 15 of the best known Lennon-McCartney compositions (acquired through the Sony/ATV deal) as well as a few additional ones by George Harrison. They also chose only those most famous songs over the deeper cuts in order to help sell the concept of how incredulous it is that anyone - let alone the whole world - could ever forget these songs or the band who made them. Here is every Beatles song that Jack performs in Yesterday:
- Let It Be
- I Want to Hold Your Hand
- She Loves You
- I Saw Here Standing There
- In My Life
- Back in the USSR
- The Long & Winding Road
- Here Comes The Sun
- A Hard's Day Night
- Carry That Weight
- Hey Jude
- All You Need is Love
- Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Where Every Beatles Song Appears In Yesterday
After his accident, Jack receives a new guitar from his childhood friend/manager, Ellie, and to try it out he plays, "Yesterday". She is astonished, calling it the most beautiful song she's ever heard and asks him when he wrote it. Of course, Jack says he didn't write, Paul McCartney did, and it's then that it begins to dawn him that no one has any clue who he's talking about. A little Google research later reveals to him there's absolutely no record of The Beatles at all, so he takes it upon himself to try remembering all their songs. Jack later plays (or tries to, he's constantly interrupted) "Let It Be" for his parents, but he's frustrated that one of the greatest songs ever written doesn't get the respect he believes it deserves.
Jack next tries out The Beatles' songs at a gig - a children's birthday party where he performs "I Want To Hold Your Hand". There isn't much response from his audience, but his performing does eventually get the attention of a local record producer. Together with Ellie, Jack records two more songs in addition to "I Want To Hold Your Hand" in a little studio in Suffolk - "She Loves You" and "I Saw Her Standing There". He hands out the CDs to anyone who'll listen, even going on a morning talk show to promote the music with a performance of "In My Life".
It's this local broadcast appearance that brings Jack to the attention of Ed Sheeran, who asks Jack to open for him at his next concert in Moscow. At the show, Jack plays "Back in the USSR", again impressing Sheeran, who then challenges him to a song-writing contest. Unsurprisingly, Jack wins handily with a stirring rendition of "The Long & Winding Road". From there, Jack's musical career takes off, and after chatting with Sheeran's manager, he's off to L.A. where he records "Here Comes The Sun", "Something", and "A Hard Day's Night".
As Jack's star begins to climb, a montage of his ever-increasing popularity is accompanied by his recording of "Carry That Weight". Again back in the recording studio, Jack is hard at work at "Hey Jude", which Sheeran suggests he change to "Hey Dude" (and sadly, his new manager and record company agree). By this point, however, Jack is becoming disillusioned with all his fame and fortune, planning for one final rooftop concert. There, he performs "Help!", the perfect tune for a musician who feels trapped by their own success.
Realizing it's time to call it quits and tell everyone the truth, Jack calls on Sheeran for a favor, asking to play a short set during his show at Wembley Stadium. Jack uses the opportunity to not only come clean, revealing that all his songs actually came from this band called The Beatles, but he uses the moment - as well as the song, "All You Need Is Love" - to finally profess his love to his childhood friend and former manager, Ellie. After this, Jack gives up on the pop star life and settles back home with Ellie. He returns to being a teacher, performing one final Beatles number for his students - "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" - a fitting song to finish with seeing how it illustrates that he and Ellie are now living happily ever after just like Desmond and Molly Jones.
Other Beatles Songs Referenced In Yesterday
These 16 songs are those which Jack performs over the course of Yesterday, but they are not the only Beatles song which are referenced. The famous crescendo from "A Day in Life" plays just before Jack is struck by the bus, and while recovering at the hospital, Jack makes a joke about "When I'm Sixty-Four". Visiting Ellie while she's teaching reminds Jack of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", and later at his retail job, Jack recalls the lyrics for "Nowhere Man". When recording in L.A., Jack says he wants the guitar to weep, a reference to "When My Guitar Gently Weeps".
Throughout Yesterday, Jack also struggles to remember all the lyrics to "Eleanor Rigby", at one point even visiting Liverpool, hoping to be inspired by visiting the same sites that inspired Lennon and McCartney to also write "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane". Jack gets a visit from Ellie while in Liverpool and their meeting makes him think of "Hello, Goodbye". That's not all though, as "Yellow Submarine" and "Octopus's Garden" also get shout outs.
Other Songs In Yesterday
In addition to all The Beatles songs, there are few non-Beatles songs which appear as well. Being that Ed Sheeran is in Yesterday, a few of his tracks are heard. There's "You Don't Need Me, I Don't Need You" and "Shape of You" (which is, hilariously, his ringtone), as well as "Penguins", the little ditty he writes for the song contest, and "One Life", which he wrote for the film. Oasis' "Wonderwall" is a song Jack performs as a child, and while at the Latitude Music Festival, both "Daft" by the Husky Loops and "Love & Hate" by Michael Kiwanuka are heard.
Then there are the songs which Jack writes before he begins passing off The Beatles' music as his own. "Summer Song" is heard several times throughout Yesterday, first as Jack's only good song he performs and later as the one original composition he tries to record while in L.A. He also performs "Rock This Road" at Latitude, but sadly, in what might be Yesterday's biggest oversight, it never shows Jack performing, "Dinosaur", and that's a real shame.